Federal investigators are probing an allegation that a female passenger was molested by a seat mate during a United Airlines flight on Tuesday night.
On Tuesday, a passenger on board a United Airlines flight from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) reportedly alerted crew members that she was sexually assaulted by a stranger seated next to her on the plane. Eyewitnesses say police boarded the aircraft when it arrived at its destination.
According to media reports, the FBI has taken over the the investigation into the alleged in-flight groping incident. United Airlines officials confirmed that they are cooperating with federal law enforcement on the probe.
Citing unnamed sources within law enforcement, Charlotte ABC News affiliate WSOC-TV reports that the troubling incident involved a 73-year-old man allegedly groping and placing his hands between the legs of a female seat mate in her 30s. According to the television station, the accused sexual predator initially told investigators that his hand merely fell on the victim’s lap “due to turbulence.”
“I’m sure a woman knows the difference between a hand hitting her versus being groped,” passenger Sherrell Ealy later told ABC News.
After what was described by fellow flyers as a brief “commotion,” flight attendants separated the two passengers and police on the ground at CLT were alerted to the situation. The accused geriatric groper was escorted from the plane before other travelers were allowed to disembark.
As of Wednesday evening, no arrests have been reported in connection to this latest incident of alleged onboard sexual assault.
An eerily similar incident in which a male passenger was accused of sexually assaulting a female passenger on a CLT-bound flight occurred in September. In this earlier case, a 33-year-old woman told authorities that her seat mate “just basically rubbed down my entire thigh” during an American Airlines redeye flight from San Diego International Airport (SAN) to Charlotte. The victim claims that one of the man’s fingers even became briefly caught in a hole in her jeans. Authorities say no arrests were made as a result of the incident.